Reflection: Showing love for refugees

Barbara Kentish gives the reflection at the Home Office Prayer Vigil 20th March 2023

By Barbara Kentish

On Monday 20 March, more than 20 people attended the monthly ecumenical Home Office Prayer Vigil in London to commemorate refugees who have died trying to find a place of safety. The group has gathered every month over 18 months. Organisations represented included the London Catholic Worker, Westminster Justice and Peace, the London Churches Refugee Fund, the Community of the Word of God and Columban missionaries. Barbara Kentish gave the reflection.


So here we are, in the Fourth Week of Lent, in the middle of a worsening political situation. How can we continue to pray and have faith that God is with those coming to our shores looking for safety?

I think that it is this very sense of powerlessness that aligns us with refugees and migrants. We are unable, as things stand, to do anything significant to change the policies and hardline mentality of our government. Exiles on the move are powerless even to death, as we realise every month. We campaign, hold placards, try to communicate with our fellow human beings. We take comfort that all of us here feel the same outrage and sometimes despair that anything can be different. I have taken this reflection from a book on shared spirituality with refugees compiled by the International Jesuit Refugee Service.

‘It is in that weakness that we can take refuge. Weakness links us profoundly with God, because it provides a privileged area in which his grace can be seen, in which his sustaining presence can reveal itself, in which even his power can become manifest. This is why weakness stands as almost the opposite of sin. Weakness is a chosen context for the epiphany of the Lord, it is the night in which he appears – not always felt as assurance, but rather as a power to move on faithfully, even when we do not feel the strength, even when fidelity means simply putting one step in front of the other.”

The writer, a Jesuit Refugee Service director, points out an important corollary of our weakness, which might make us stop and think:

“The experience of weakness deepens both our sensitivity to human need and our experience of prayer. There is an important consequence for all of us in the refugee support network: we must support one another in weakness, forgiving one another our daily faults and carrying one another’s burdens. It would be absurd to maintain weakness as essentially part of our vocation and then to belittle those who are deficient, to resent those who are insensitive, unsophisticated or clumsy, to allow disagreements to become hostilities, or to continue battles and angers because of personal histories.”

There is a great tendency for us to become embittered and cynical about those whom we oppose. We have a clear duty to show love, however that is to be manifested, to those we see as enemies to the good of refugees. I don’t know quite what that looks like. But standing here in this public place, I pray that it will be revealed to us!

Let us pray: Jesus, who told us to love our enemies, and do good to those who hate us, bless our weakness, and give us the heart and the wisdom to follow your teaching. Amen


Love the Stranger – Document from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, March 2023

Prayer Vigil outside the Home Office for Migrants on Monday 20th March 2023

You are invited to our monthly Prayer Vigil which will be held outside the Home Office, 12.30-1.30pm, Marsham Street, SWQP 4DF.

It is normally held on the third Monday of the month and is a space for us to remember migrants who have died trying to reach the UK, the many victims of the war in Ukraine, those who work with asylum seekers in detention centres, and the homeless.

We believe that God will prevail, however great the disaster,
however great the horror, however great the inhumanity.

For further information contact or

Bruce Kent Memorial Tree Planted in Finsbury Park

Jeremy Corbyn MP and Bruce’s wife, Valerie Flessati, plant the tree

By William Rhind. Source: Christian CND

Saturday 4th March saw about 150/200 people gathered on the north side of the Finsbury Park athletics track to plant a walnut tree in memory of Bruce Kent. In the spirit of Bruce himself it was a joyful if somewhat chaotic event bringing together numerous strands of his most varied life. 

Kate Hudson there on behalf of CND head office, accompanied by Jeremy Corbyn. Bruce’s widow, Valerie Flessati, spoke on behalf of the Movement for Abolition of War along with a Keith from the Friends of Finsbury Park. Like Bruce himself they all managed to bring humour into the serious topics they were talking about. Pax Christi, London Catholic Worker and the London Peace Pagoda, the United Nations Association were but five organisations I recognised as being present after a quick survey of the crowd. The Diocese of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission was also represented. Mereid Hopwood, a Welsh language poet came all the way from her home country to deliver a poem she had composed just for the occasion.

That said it would perhaps be incorrect to describe it as a crowd as there was no ‘them and us’ as everyone was chatting as friends and all were invited to add soil as a collective team effort to plant the tree.

Initially it had been announced that the tree to be planted would be grown by Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, when pruning his olive tree Jeremy damaged the hornbeam he was growing for the purpose so, once that has recovered, it will be planted elsewhere in Finsbury Park. It seems somewhat ironic that the tree being grown to commemorate such a commensurate peace campaigner should be damaged by an olive branch! Bruce would have seen the funny side.

Bishop McAleenan comments on Illegal Migration Bill

Bishop Paul at Dover memorial to refugees drowned in Channel. Photo: Mazur/

Source: CBCEW

Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Catholic Bishop for Migrants and Refugees made the following comments on the government’s Illegal Migration Bill yesterday:

“Everyone who makes a dangerous journey across the Channel to build a better life here has a name, a face, and a story. People are driven from their homes by poverty, conflict, persecution, natural disasters, or other factors that prevent their flourishing. Many have links to the UK or family members already living here. Yet, far too often, there are no safe routes open to them.

“While we all wish to end dangerous Channel crossings, this new legislation treats migrants and refugees as a problem to be solved rather than brothers and sisters towards whom we have responsibilities. Establishing more safe routes, and genuinely understanding people’s individual circumstances are essential to meeting these.

“As Christians we call for the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, to be put at the heart of public policy.”

Sign the Safe Passage petition now

Bishop John Sherrington – The Continuing Call to Ecological Conversion: Reducing our Carbon Footprint in the Diocese of Westminster

Earth-rise. Photo: NASA

Source: RCDOW

Opening talk given by Bishop John Sherrington at the ‘Towards Decarbonisation Seminar’ for parish teams on 18th February 2023

Today’s meeting is the next stage in our reflection on how to reduce the carbon footprint of the diocese and to live more fully the Church’s teaching on the care of our common home. 

The evocative photograph that illustrates this article shows ‘earthrise’. It is the first photograph taken by an astronaut of the earth rising in front of the moon. It dates from the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968. I remember the excitement of these pictures arriving from space as a young boy. The photograph evokes wonder and awe as we look at our beautiful world and see the patterns of cloud, sea, and land. 

Economics and Development

In 1967 St Paul VI published Populorum Progressio on the development of peoples. He argued for the need to place persons at the heart of development rather than economics. He developed the term authentic human development (PP 14) which becomes a focus for Catholic Social Teaching.

Questions of development and economics were the subject of much debate in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember discussions at school about wind and solar power, tidal energy, and questions about future nuclear expansion. On my bookshelves I found Barbara Ward and René Dubos’ book Only One Earth – the Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet published in 1972. It was a set of papers commissioned by the UN on the human environment. These papers argue the dangers of a world dominated by a prevailing attitude to technology which fails to respect people and the good of the planet. 

I am sure that many of you will be familiar with Ernst Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful (1973) which challenged the economic theories of the 1970s that argued that progress was always an improvement. Fifty years later we recognise the prophetic vision of these authors. 

At the end of the same decade in 1979, St Francis of Assisi was named as the patron of ecology by St John Paul II. 

Integral Ecology

Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ (2015) gives us the most recent systematic reflection on the care of our common home. He is inspired by his namesake St Francis of Assisi who celebrated and sang of the beauty of creation in his Canticle of Brother Sun. The encyclical opens with this inspiration:

LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In these words of his beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. He sings, “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs. (LS 1)

The Pope writes of the need to build an integral ecology, one that includes all aspects of the human and social development including the care of the gift of creation. He reminds us that we cannot discuss care of our common home without respect for the dignity of every human person. St Francis inspires justice towards our neighbour.

St Francis was concerned for both God’s creation and for the poor and outcast – remember he shared his rich clothes with a beggar. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace. (LS 10)

All is Gift

St Francis helps us appreciate that creation is a gift. All is Gift. A growth in gratitude for the gifts we have received could help us focus this season of Lent. We seek to appreciate the gifts we have been given by God and offer thanks and praise to him.

What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). (LS 12)

The Book of Genesis, as well as psalms 8 and 104, sing of the glory of God’s creation. Man and woman are the apex of God’s creation, created in his image and likeness. They are called to be stewards and care for this wonderful gift of our common home imitating the delight and mercy of the Creator. 

St John Paul II captures this sense:

Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude. (Letter of St John Paul II to Artists, 1999)

Gerard Manley Hopkins captures this in the introduction to his poem God’s Grandeur, which begins,

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Further, we are reminded by Pope Francis that, ‘Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.’ (LS 12)

The only worthy response to this gift of our common home is gratitude which leads to generosity. 

The Holy Trinity and Created Reality

The starting point for a Christian theological reflection is God the Trinity; God who is Three Persons in One God. The divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, exist in relationships of love with one another. The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father. St Augustine describes the Holy Spirit as the ‘kiss of love’ who proceeds from the Father and the Son, as we pray in the Creed. St Bonaventure offers further insight to understanding these relationships. The Pope refers to his theology in the encyclical:

St Bonaventure teaches us that each creature bears in itself a specifically Trinitarian structure, so real that it could be readily contemplated if only the human gaze were not so partial, dark and fragile. In this way, he points out to us the challenge of trying to read reality in a Trinitarian key. (LS 239) 

We are invited to see how God has left his mark on all of creation. The created world, according to the divine model, is a web of relationships. A central theme of the encyclical is that ‘Everything is interconnected’. The Father creates the heavens and the earth; the Son redeems all creation from the effects of sin; the Holy Spirit draws all of creation towards ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1) and ‘makes all things new’ (Rev 21:5). This dynamic reveals, albeit imperfectly, the Trinitarian structure of created reality and its relationship with the Creator. This is clearly seen in David Attenborough’s nature programmes, e.g. Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, which are all about relationships.

The Effects of Sin

Almost from the beginning, God’s creation is scarred by sin. The Book of Genesis shows how the harmony of God’s creation is broken by the Fall; the relationship between Adam and Eve, with God and with the earth. The relationships are broken because they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and desired to be like gods. Injustice and violence interrupt the harmony and enter the world with their effects still visible in our world today. 

Hopkins in God’s Grandeur captures this state of alienation with creation,

Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
     And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
     And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

I was privileged to visit the parish in Quezon City, Philippines, where the city dump of Payatas is located, when I was teaching at a Vincentian seminary. I observed four trucks a minute delivering the city’s waste. The dump, home to many people who scavenged to survive, was open from dawn to dusk. I accompanied the local priest to celebrate a month’s mind Mass for a 14 year old who had been killed when he was struck by a dumper truck. In simplicity we celebrated the Mass, Christ’s redemption of mankind, and prayed for the repose of his soul.

As a response, we are invited to listen and hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor (LS 49).

Reconciliation in Christ

We have hope because God in his love sent his Son to redeem the world. The familiar words of St Paul deepen our hope,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5) 

Christ reconciles all things to God overcoming the sins of injustice and violence. All is to be reconciled to the Father who desires ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1) and who ‘makes all things new’ (Rev 21:5). The Holy Spirit brings about a new creation. The final lines of Hopkins’ poem promise the consolation and presence of the Holy Spirit brooding over the world. 

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

We are called to be ambassadors for Christ proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom of justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are invited to cooperate in the work of redemption: 

“Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.

(LS 92)

Pope Francis describes how we mature as Christians by entering deeply into this web of relationships and helping to build the solidarity which exists with all of creation,

The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity. (LS 240)

Growing in gratitude

Pope Francis calls for the ecological conversion of Christians ‘whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtues; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience’ (LS 217). 

As we grow in gratitude, thanksgiving and praise for the gifts we have received, so we become ‘poor in spirit. Freed from selfishness and a desire for possessions, we grow in the virtue of humility and simplicity. Laudato si’ captures this spirit,

It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures (LS 222). 

We seek growth in justice towards our neighbour and God, temperance or moderation of our desires, prudent choices which lead to our maturity as Christians and the courage to live the vision and understanding of an integral ecology. As Pope Francis tells us, 

There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle… All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity. (LS 211)

Our Conversion

Today we reflect on the choices to be made in parishes about heating, lighting and other ways to reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint of the diocese. 

The life of St Francis inspires our conversion and repentance of our sins, faults and failures in relation to God’s beautiful creation (LS 218).

Finally, let us reflect again on Hopkins’ poem:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
   World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Bishop John Sherrington

This is the second in a series of occasional reflections on the call to ecological conversion by Bishop Sherrington. The first is available to read here.


The Diocese of Westminster has committed to do its utmost to become carbon neutral by 2030 in its parishes and curial buildings. It has also expressed its commitment to working with schools to encourage them to follow the same path. As Pope Francis explains in Laudato Si’, caring for God’s created world and cooperating with the Holy Spirit in this work of creation is everyone’s responsibility, not least that of the faithful.

Follow the link to view the 2021 carbon footprint report, watch Cardinal Vincent’s video and read the accompanying documents below to find out more:

Diocese of Westminster: The Road to Carbon Neutrality

Southern Dioceses Environment Network

Westminster Justice and Peace E-Bulletin March 2023

Fr Dominic writes:

Prayer, fasting, and works of charity are the three traditional strands of Lenten observance recommended by the Church. 

As such, they are part of a whole, representing how on our Lenten journey we live out our faith as God’s Pilgrim People and, as the living out of the Church’s social teaching is at the heart of our faith, each dimension involves the hallmark of the Kingdom of love, peace, justice, truth. 

In our prayer we are called to remember those most in need, especially those affected by war and conflict, and those on the margins in whatever way. 

We are called to make some concrete expression of our need for God in fasting from earthly pleasures, and in so doing are in solidarity with those who suffer and grow into closer communion with the whole of creation groaning for rebirth.  CAFOD’s Lent Family Fast Day is a good time to do this but, of course, the whole of Lent presents opportunities for fasting. 

And we are called to do something tangible which assists those most in need and our ailing planet.  Here we can volunteer through Caritas with the homeless, food banks, with the SVP and so many other charities, and there are so many practical things we can do to care better for the environment 

There is so much we can do as individuals and as communities in our parishes, schools and chaplaincies, to prepare for the greatest feast of the Church’s year at Easter. If nothing else, however, I hope we can spend some more time reflecting on our own frailty and sinfulness as God’s constantly journeying Pilgrim People, to be renewed in our commitment to be a Church which truly proclaims the Kingdom of peace and justice, to be a Church which, as the Holy Father puts it, is a Church not just with or for but “of the poor”.

The Lent 2023 Faith-Sharing group resource, prepared this year by Westminster Justice and Peace, is there also to help us embrace Lenten renewal in communities.  I hope that our growing network of Contacts representing our communities can promote it.  Download a copy

In encouraging us to use it widely, this gives me the opportunity to thank all our contacts and other volunteers for the work of Justice & Peace in their communities, and especially Colette Joyce, for all the work on this and so much else as Justice & Peace Co-ordinator.

I thank also the Commission, now rebuilding and growing, and this month welcome back Hilda McAfferty, who will represent the vast network of parishes in West London where so much valuable work is going on.

Many thanks again for your faithfulness to the work of Justice and Peace in our diocese.

And a blessed Lent to all!   

Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ
Chair, Westminster Justice and Peace

Westminster Justice and Peace on Radio Maria Tuesdays at 11.15am, starting 7th March

‘Enlarge the space of your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly, lengthen your ropes and make firm your pegs.’

Isaiah 54, 2

Word of Life: Enlarging the Space of Our Tent

Radio Maria are running a five-week series beginning on 7th March and continuing through Lent every Tuesday at 11.15am with guests Fr Dominic Robinson SJ and Colette Joyce from the Diocese of Westminster, sharing reflections from their Lent Faith Sharing resource ‘Enlarging the Space of Our Tent’.

In these programmes, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ and Colette Joyce reflect on issues which are at the heart of the Kingdom in 2023: poverty, the impact of the cost of living, homelessness, racial justice, the care of creation, the welcome we extend to migrants and refuges, and peace-making. As we journey through Lent we are called to make more space in our hearts and minds as a community of missionary disciples. In reflecting on these challenges we keep our eyes on Jesus, travelling with him towards the cross and the eventual joy of the resurrection.

‘Justice and Peace are at the heart of the Kingdom preached by Jesus. The Church prays that Jesus might accomplish in us: A Kingdom of Truth and Life, A Kingdom of Holiness and Grace, A Kingdom of Justice, Love and Peace. This is an echo of the Beatitudes that Jesus taught. What is difficult is to know how to achieve this…’

Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ is Parish Priest of The Immaculate Conception Church, Farm Street, and the Chair of the Westminster Diocesan Justice & Peace Commission and Colette Joyce is the Commission’s Coordinator.

CAFOD Lent Appeal 2023

This Lent, CAFOD invite you to help families around the world cope with the climate crisis. Communities are losing loved ones, their homes and their crops through no fault of their own. The people we serve are determined to adapt and they need your help now to get the tools and training they tell us they need. Give a gift today

Donate to CAFOD’s Fast Day Appeal

Plant in us, Lord, 
seeds of solidarity, 
so that, rejoicing in your gifts, 
we may cherish your presence 
in each other and all creation. 

Root us, Lord, 
in compassion and justice. 
Pour your Spirit down like gentle rain, 
softening our hearts, 
washing away division and selfishness. 

Cultivate in us, Lord, 
attentiveness to your call. 
Give us hope to dream of a better world 
and strength to play our part
to make it a reality. 

Grow in us, Lord, 
your ways of peace and courage,  
so that in this time of Lent,
we may bear witness to your love, 
revealed to us in Jesus. 


Learn more about CAFOD Lent Fast Day 2023

Cardinal Calls for ‘Unceasing Prayer’ for Ukraine

Source: RCDOW

On the first anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine, Cardinal Nichols has called for continued support and prayer.

Calling this day a ‘solemn and distressing moment’, he appealed for ‘an unceasing prayer for peace’.

In his message, he writes: ‘This first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine is a solemn and distressing moment. The people of Ukraine continue to suffer. We must all continue our support, both in practical ways and in an unceasing prayer for peace.’

More on War in Ukraine

Chance to hear youth worker from Colombian Amazon speak at White City and FLAME

Jenny Garzón Saavedra, CAFOD partner, holding seeds from the Amazon

Wednesday 1st March – Our Lady of Fatima, White City

Jenny Garzón Saavedra, a youth worker in San Vicente de Caguán, in the Colombian Amazon will be speaking on Wednesday evening, 1 March at Our Lady of Fatima Parish Hall, White City, west London. 7.30pm start. (Refreshment from 7.15pm)

The hall is beside The Presbytery, Commonwealth Avenue, White City Estate London W12 7QR which is at the back of the church. Nearest tube stations are White City on Central Line and Wood Lane on Hammersmith & City. It is 5 mins walk from Bloemfontein Road bus stop on the 207, 607, and 260 busses along the Uxbridge Road and it is 2 mins from the White City shops bus stop on the 283 from Hammersmith Bus Station to Hammersmith Hospital.

Jenny works for CAFOD partner, FUNVIPAS, which is the local diocese’s social outreach team. She trains and supports parish groups who are still feeling the effects of 50 years of conflict in Colombia, and in areas where there are no paved roads, running water, electricity or access to health care. Jenny works on a project that helps communities learn to care for creation and put this into practice in all areas of their lives. For example, communities find innovative ways to recycle discarded household objects into useful items.

Saturday 4th March – Flame 2023 at Wembley Arena

Jenny will also be sharing her inspirational work with 8,000 young people at Flame 2023 at the Wembley Arena along with Archbishop Tagle and others on Saturday 4 March, and will be visiting schools and parishes as part of her visit.

Jenny is a talented painter and uses painting to help children/teenagers learn about their rights – such as the right to a healthy environment – and to participate in decisions that affect them.

Jenny has witnessed the deforestation of the Amazon for cattle: “I dream that our land, our Amazon, will not disappear. I dream that we continue to take care of it, defend it and love it”.

Report from CAFOD Colombia